Making you Think (in a Bad Way)

On Friday, I was getting ready to fly to Monterey, CA for Internet Librarian 2014, and needed to pay for something on my flight with American Airlines. The screenshot above is the credit card payment page on American Airline’s website.

It’s weird. Instead of running your name, address, etc left to right, they run everything up to down. So my name? There are three vertical boxes for first, middle initial, and last.

That’s pretty much like no other credit card page ever.

And it forced me to think about the functionality of the page. For example, I really, really wanted to type my middle initial in the Country box, and my last name in the City box. Then, since I’m used to typing left to right, when I reached the Street address box, I couldn’t enter my city next. I had to search for the City box … because 9 times out of 10, most of us generally type address, city, state, zipcode. Except, apparently, for American Airlines.

So instead of thinking about my purchase (paying $15 extra to board in group 1), I was having to think about where to type my middle initial and my city.

My point? Don’t ever force your website visitors to have to think about your website and your poorly-done forms. Keep website visitors focused and thinking about the things they really want to do (i.e., check out a book! borrow a movie! read your cool blog post! etc).

If your website visitors have to think about how the functionality of your website works … you have failed.

My Slides for Los Angeles Public Library

Last week, I visited the Los Angeles Public Library‘s central library, and spoke as part of their Innovation Leadership Program. So I re-worked my Improving the Customer Experience presentation and re-did all the slides.
Check it out!

Should you Focus on People without Library Cards?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go read Bobbi Newman’s article on Why Libraries Should Look Beyond Library Card Ownership as a Measure of Support. Bobbi sometimes has a slightly different perspective than me, so her articles make me think.

I left a comment on her post that said this:

Yes … but. It’s also a problem of simple marketing. We aren’t offering something those people want, so they don’t use the library.
Perhaps we should ask them about their information/entertainment/distraction needs, and see if we can meet those?

I wanted to expand that thought a bit more – hence this article! The point that hit me in Bobbi’s post was her last paragraph:

Rather than focusing on the percentage of the community that has a library card, libraries would be better off focusing on public support of the library and accepting that some people don’t use the library for one reason or another.

Do I agree with that? Well, yes and no. Here’s what I mean.

No, I don’t agree with Bobbi:

First off, for my original response. I think many libraries could get more cardholders simply by:

  1. asking their community what they want, and what’s missing.
  2. Then working hard to provide those things.

That’s basic marketing and promotion, and most of us library types really don’t do marketing and promotion all that well. Figure it out, and you’ll get more cardholders – simple (well, not really simple. But you get my drift). There are definitely “potential cardholders” out there who want your library’s services … they just haven’t yet bothered to get a library card for one reason or another. With a little nudging, they just might get one.

Yes, Bobbi’s right #1:

Then again, focusing on “people who don’t have library cards” is probably NOT the best approach. Your library should have a strategic plan focused on narrower groups of people.

For example, maybe one of your library’s long-range goals is to attract more kids age 5-10 to the library. In this case, who should you target? Certainly not everyone, and not “people without library cards.” Why? Because not all of those people have kids age 5-10.

Instead, you should focus pretty specifically on young parents. Do that well, and you will attract more library card holders … within that targeted group. In the process, you’ll be working towards achieving that long-range goal.

Yes, Bobbi’s right #2:

Or, for something completely different – don’t work too hard on those people who don’t use your services. Instead, why not focus pretty heavily on your current customers? For example, my library has 92,000 or so library card holders. Why not provide those library users with the most awesome library experience ever? Or even narrow that down further to our most engaged customers (those Library Lovers that Bobbie mentions)?

Focus on that top 1% of your most engaged customers, and they will do quite a bit of word-of-mouth marketing for you. Other businesses and brands do this pretty successfully all the time. For example:

  • Lady Gaga focuses on her Little Monsters – her most engaged fans (the top 1% of her audience)
  • Maker’s Mark does a similar thing with their Ambassadors program, focused on their top fans

Here are a couple more articles on that concept:

So … what do you think? What’s your response to Bobbi’s article, and to the Pew Report she mentions?

Photo by Bobbi Newman (perfect for this post!)

Two Branches at the Same TIme

Ever thought about this? With two physical, brick-and-mortar library branches, you have to use them one at a time. Can’t use both at once!

But with a digital branch, you can. You can be in the physical library building, and can use the digital branch at the same time. You might be reading an article, checking out an ebook on your mobile device, asking a question via live chat, or wandering the stacks with smartphone in hand, looking for a book.

But you can use both. At the same time. And people do.

So make sure to design your physical branches – the building, and especially the signage – with your digital branch customers in mind. What are some things you can do to help digital branch customers while they’re in your physical building?

  • Lots of “we have free wifi” signs
  • Signs by the physical books, talking about your new ebooks or databases
  • Smartphone recharging stations
  • Comfortable seating, with power nearby
  • Mentions of social media (signs on the doors, etc)

Hmm … good signage, comfortable seating, and power. What else? What am I missing?

Image by TheeErin

Becoming a Library Customer – Can we Improve that Experience?

Has your library ever really thought about the experience around becoming a library card holder, or worked to improve it?

At most libraries, when someone gets a library card for the first time, here’s what we do: we give the person their library card. We might also hand them a printed list of either “stuff you can do” or “stuff you can’t do ” (i.e., rules, regulations and circulation policies).

Are balloons released? Does anyone celebrate? Does it usher our new customer into some cool, “members-only” club? Do we follow-up with the customer after 3 months or so to see how it’s going? Nope. For most of us, nothing else happens.

What happens with other types of membership cards?

  • Sam’s Club: a membership card gets you members-only discounts.
  • Airline reward programs: earn reward miles. Use it enough, and you can get seating upgrades and trade in miles for flights.
  • Grocery Store Cards: discounts on store purchases and fuel points.
  • Amazon Prime: free, 2-day shipping, movie and tv show streaming, and access to the Kindle ebook Library.

Now back to libraries. Is there something else we can do with a library card to make it more “membership” friendly? Reword that brochure we give out? Check back with our customers after 3 months to see how they’re doing (remember, we have their email address and snail mail address)?

How about give perks for use? For example, if they check out five books, they get that 3-day express movie for a week?

What do you think? Anyone do something special for library card holders that isn’t just “here’s your card, now go check stuff out?”

Image by Leo Reynolds